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China vows to deepen rural reform in 2008
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China is to make greater use of land transfer fees to finance rural development this year as it is making "steady progress in comprehensive rural reform", said an official here on Thursday.

"Some arable land has been used in the process of the nation's industrialization and urbanization. The land approved by the State Council in recent years has been an average 2.8 million mu (187,000 hectares) annually," said Chen Xiwen, Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs deputy director.

To fully guarantee land rights to farmers, China uses a two-layer operative system featuring a combination of centralized and decentralized management with household contracts as the basis.

The government would insist on and streamline the system in 2008, said Chen, also director of the Office of the Central Leading Group on Rural Work, at a press conference.

Reforms of the township institutions and fiscal management system at county and township levels would be further promoted to speed up reform and renovation of rural financial system and to properly settle debts in rural areas.

Chen said the government would continue reinforcing institutional and organizational guarantees in the rural areas.

Efforts should be made to enforce the legal rights of migrant workers, form an equal employment system for rural and urban labors, and explore approaches for those farmers who have stable jobs and residences in cities to gain a status as a city resident. 

Other efforts were needed to establish mechanisms of regular pay increases and pay guarantee, employment improvement, social security, housing and their children's education, he said.

Chen said the Party should advance the all-round development of primary Party organizations in rural areas, especially in villages, to improve the system of village autonomy. This was needed to build leadership in rural primary Party organizations and to explore effective mechanisms for village management.

The press conference was held a day after the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and State Council jointly issued this year's first policy statement. It was dedicated, for the fifth consecutive time, to rural issues.

According to National Bureau of Statistics data, per-capita disposable income was 13,786 yuan (1,919 U.S. dollars) in urban areas last year, up 17.2 percent, or 12.2 percent in real terms. Per-capita income was 4,140 yuan in rural areas, up 15.4 percent, or 9.5 percent in real terms.

There is still an impoverished rural population of over 20 million, even though it dropped from more than 250 million three decades ago.

Observers believed land use rights transfers and the declining number of peasants who were confined to the land through such transfers would be key to the integration of urban and rural areas and hence the narrowing of disparities.

According to the document, the basic system for rural operations and land contract relations will be stabilized and improved. The market for transferring land contract and management rights will be improved in line with the law and on a voluntary, compensated basis.

Some experiments with the land contract and management right transfer market have been conducted in some areas around the country.

Leng Gang, former party head of Shuangliu County in Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern Sichuan Province, said his county encouraged arable land to be held by large-scale farmers to support the development of efficient modern agriculture and economies of scale.

Peasants were encouraged to lease land and benefit from such leases. They could either work for large-scale farmers or find jobs outside their hometowns. Manufacturing and service industries were being expanded to provide more jobs for peasants who abandoned their land-use rights and apartments would be built for them in urban areas.

(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2008)

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